While some studies look at the way a mother interacts with her children and how that affects her, there are fewer studies that investigate how a father’s relationship impacts his children.
However, a new study that does just that indicates just how crucial it is for a father to accept his children and how much his rejection of them impacts them, especially when it comes to social anxiety.
Relationships in general help adolescents develop emotionally, and although that relationship indeed includes friends at school and other people outside the home, the most important relationships for a child to grow emotionally are those within their home, specifically with their parents.
When children have stable relationships at home, they have the confidence to be more independent and to develop more relationships outside of the house.
This study, which was done at the Prevention Research Center of Penn State, looked at 687 families over three years and focused on how each child’s relationship with their father and mother impacted them. Each family studied was made up of a father, a mother, and a child. These families were considered while the children were in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades.
As expected, the overall climate of the home and rejection from both mother and father had a negative impact on the quality of peer friendships and increased loneliness. However, something that the researchers did not expect was that children who experienced father rejection had more social anxiety than those who didn’t.
Social anxiety centers around a fear of being rejected or judged by others. This prevents those who are afflicted with it from pursuing relationships because they are so afraid of what might happen if they try to connect with others that they don’t bother trying.
This leads to an increase of loneliness as the child becomes more isolated which can also cause depression to develop.
This study makes it even more clear that a substantial familial bond is vital for children to be emotionally healthy and that fathers play a particularly active role in this. Although not all children will develop social anxiety as a result of a father’s rejection, there’s no reason to risk it. Fortunately, there are some things that fathers (and mothers) can do to help their adolescents develop emotionally.
Empathy is the first and most important part of fostering a positive relationship with your children. Empathizing with your child means not jumping to punishing negative behavior, but first working to understand why your child is acting that way.
More than anything, your child needs to know that their voice is being heard and that their parents are looking to understand them.
Making time is another vital aspect of developing a good relationship with your children. Turn off the phone, tablet, and TV and spend some time interacting together. Find something that both you and your child loves, and make that a priority, even if it’s something as seemingly meaningless as searching the state on the weekends for the best burger joint. Your child needs to know that they are a priority.
Help your child solve their problems. It’s essential as children learn to be independent that they begin to learn how to solve their problems, but that doesn’t mean you let them figure it out on their own. Instead, you need to provide wisdom and insight and work with them to guide them to a solution rather than merely telling them what to do. Sometimes that means letting them make the wrong choice and being there to love and support them when it all falls apart.
Communication is the ultimate key to developing healthy relationships with your children. Through adolescence, your role as a parent begins to change as your child changes, and you need to be ready to talk through all the problems that come up. Keep communication open with your children so they can freely share both their dreams and frustrations with you.
By recognizing the importance of the bond between fathers and children and taking steps to improve that relationship, parents can help guide their child through these difficult years and give them an excellent emotional foundation for the rest of their lives.